The U. S. Economy added 243,000 jobs in January – the fastest rate since April, 2011. The increase appears to be a solid one based on economic information collected in government surveys. The official government unemployment rate declined from 8.5% to 8.3%. Manufacturing added 50,000 jobs and 21,000 new jobs were added to construction. In a separate household survey, a huge 847,000 increase in employment for January was found. It takes some months for employment data to shake-out but all point to a continued recovery with lowered danger of a double-dip recession. A better job outlook may encourage disappointed job seekers to return to the job market pushing up the unemployment rate.
January auto sales accelerated to a 14.1 million unit pace, up from December’s 13.5 million units. This is a post-recession high if you do not consider the temporary surge in sales due to the cash-for-clunkers program in August 2009.
Recent construction market data show the impact of the recession on the building industry. In 2007, $907.3 billion in construction work was performed but construction activity had declined to $611.7 billion in 2011, a 32.3% decline. Construction economists project that activity will increase to $654.8 billion in 2012, a 7% improvement. Long-range forecast is $886.2 billion in 2015, a 44.9% growth from 2011’s low.
Single-family housing suffered a 61.6% decline from 2007 to 2011, but remains the largest single construction segment with $117.9 billion spending in 2011. Not all commercial building was down, buildings used for transportation (airports, bus terminals, etc.) showed an increase from 2007. Energy generation and distribution, highway and street construction and maintenance, and sewage disposal also registered increases through this recession.